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Mama mia! La Traviata closes

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Ralph Tommaso has served his last rigatoni.

On Wednesday night, the owner of La Traviata shut down his 30-year-old Montague Street eatery — leaving only a “Closed” sign with the words, “Lost our lease.”

Tommaso could not be reached, but friends said that he caved to exorbitant rents.

“He just couldn’t take it anymore,” said Robert Fink, owner of the Heights Cleaners next door. “He came by after to say goodbye.”

On Thursday, regulars encountered a roll-down gate at the cozy Italian joint between Henry and Clinton streets, a barrier to their $12 chicken cutlet parmigiana or $6 personal-sized pizza.

La Traviata was a mainstay on Montague Street, alongside the Happy Days Diner, Teresa’s and the Heights Café — a longtime contender on a strip that’s become notorious for high rents and frequent restaurant turnover.

Locals were heartbroken when Armando’s, the iconic Heights eatery next door, closed in 2007. The owner, Peter Byros, wanted to retire, so he leased his Italian boite to the Spicy Pickle sandwich chain. But after that shop failed, and Byros brought back his 74-year-old restaurant.

“Restaurant closings are sad, but these things happen here,” said Frankie Konidari, a longtime worker at the nearby Grand Canyon Restaurant. “It’s just too expensive here.”

Tommaso’s landlord, Carl Zerbo of Doraldo Holding Corporation, vowed that rent wasn’t the problem.

“Ralph just got tired of it,” Zerbo said. “I just don’t understand it to be honest. There’s never been an issue with the lease.”

He added, “I’ve always tried to be fair with him. That’s why he’s been on the block since the 1980s.”

Tommaso was beloved for his large helpings of shrimp scampi, rigatoni a la vodka and thin-crust pizza. His eatery was at one time a father-and-son act that included a Joralemon Street takeout annex, before Ralph Jr. went into the renewable fuel business.

Regulars were puzzled this week to see La Traviata shuttered.

“I’ve been coming here since they opened,” said attorney Vincent Martusciello, a regular who saw no indication of trouble.

“I bring my family, my secretaries, my friends here. Wow, I can’t believe they’re gone.”

Reach Kate Briquelet at kbriquelet@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.

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Reader Feedback

anabdul from cobble hill says:
Hey, where's the alcohol in this article? Oh I see, rigatoni a la vodka.
Nov. 15, 2011, 5:58 am
JACKIE from BROOKLYN HTS. says:
IF THEY SAY ITS "NOT THE RENT" ITS THE RENT.....I REALLY ENJOYED GOING, GOOD FOOD, NICE PEOPLE. NOW WE HAVE ANOTHER VACANCT STORE AND A LANDLORD WHO ONLY CARES ABOUT MONEY. THIS STORE WILL PROBABLY BE VACANT FOR A LONGTIME LIKE THE OTHERS.
I GUESS A CORPORATE FOOL WILL COME IN AND OVER PAY.

MONTAGE STREET IS CERTAINLY NOT WHAT IT WAS...GREED HAS TAKEN OVER.
Nov. 19, 2011, 7:52 pm
Esther from Brooklyn heights says:
Sad, I was just craving their food. The phone was offline which I thought was odd until I read thus :(
Nov. 29, 2011, 5:33 pm
JR from Brooklyn Heights says:
My wife and I have been going there for more than 20 years and we've always enjoyed the food and friendly service. It will be missed.
Dec. 2, 2011, 12:33 am
GLENN from BED STUY says:
Went by Tuesday to see "Closed" sign. Work on Court St and have been going to La Traviata for years. Disappointed :(
Dec. 8, 2011, 5:08 pm
Derek from Windsor Terrace says:
Many great dinners here, outdoor seating, good prices. Everything a young couple in BK could want.
Jan. 10, 2012, 2:12 pm
Sam from Canarsie says:
My husband propose to me there ,even before that it was on of my favorite place to eat , they made a great liguinie seafood.
Jan. 26, 2012, 9:16 pm
Biagio from Suffolk says:
So saddened that my favarite restaurant is closed.... I'm still in shock.. just found out today 02/13/12...How? I was going through the "yelp" page/app on my iphone and just like any other Valentine (or any day) La Traviata was always the place to be....and it brings good memories....especially with the one I'll always love.... I guess nothing last forever! Hands downn to you! and Thank you sooooo much for your years of great service and food,,,, and the great sangria! Godsapeed Mr Ralp Tommaso!

A.B.B.
Feb. 13, 2012, 6:27 pm
Jo-Jo from Ozone Park says:
Omg! I cannot believe La Traviata has closed it doors. My fiance and I always went there for their food, especially the shrimp parmagiana (out of this world). The place was cozy and the staff was very nice. A perfect place to enjoy a nice inexpensive meal and unwind. We will truly miss this place. To the owner and staff of La Traviata, Thank You for the great food and service. I hope you will open up somewhere else close by.
Feb. 14, 2012, 2:52 pm
Jay V from Ephratah, NY Upstate says:
I'm frequently in Brooklyn and the thing that brought me to
Montague Street was La Traviata...since the 80's. It's a big loss to Brooklyn Heights!
May 9, 2012, 9:47 am
Jay V from Ephratah, NY Upstate says:
I'm frequently in Brooklyn and the thing that brought me to
Montague Street was La Traviata...since the 80's. It's a big loss to Brooklyn Heights!
May 9, 2012, 9:47 am
Jay V from Ephratah, NY Upstate says:
I'm frequently in Brooklyn and the thing that brought me to
Montague Street was La Traviata...since the 80's. It's a big loss to Brooklyn Heights!
May 9, 2012, 9:47 am
Jay V from Ephratah, NY Upstate says:
I'm frequently in Brooklyn and the thing that brought me to
Montague Street was La Traviata...since the 80's. It's a big loss to Brooklyn Heights!
May 9, 2012, 9:47 am
Waqa from Sheepshead Bay says:
best baked ziti in town!
July 24, 2013, 4:15 pm
LaDonya from Brooklyn says:
I have been coming to this restaurant since I was 5 years old. My mother have been eating from here since in her 20's. I can't believe they're closed. It's sad how a business so popular that has been around for more than a quarter of a century would close down with no warning. The memories I have shared here; first dates, family night, Kindergarten graduation to graduating from college. I hope the owner sees this and reconsiders opening a new restaurant at a different location. The fried butter fly shrimp
w/pasta is my favorite and my mother loves the lasagna.
Aug. 9, 2014, 1:15 am
Carol from Brooklyn from Clinton Hill says:
My family & I have been going to this restaurant for years, I was so disappointed to hear that it was closed, I pray that the owner or his family open up another La traviata in Brooklyn very soon.
Aug. 28, 2016, 8:32 am

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